Parents and school share the responsibility for teaching children about personal safety and prevention. While you may believe the school is doing this task, every parent must take an active interest and role in teaching their child about safety measures, specifically related to abduction and exploitation.

Prevention starts with making your home a safe and trusting environment that meets your child’s needs. It also involves teaching your child effective listening and assertiveness skills. As their parent you are your child’s first role model. Personal safety skills must be taught through direct modeling —how you as parent behave or react— and teachable moments —those occasions where you have a golden opportunity to impart information to your child.

Here are some strategies for prioritizing your child’s safety by teaching them to be smart, strong and safe:

  1. LOOK & LISTEN – Be observant; watch for what’s different or out of the ordinary. Listen to what your child isn’t saying. Listen to your child—to what they like and don’t like. Model and encourage open communication. Let your child know that they can talk to you about any situation and be receptive when they do. Always let them know they are loved and that their safety and security is your number one concern.
  2. RESPECT YOUR CHILD ‒ Allow your child their space. Part of listening to what they like and don’t like is respecting their wishes. For example, if your child does not want to be kissed or hugged by a well-meaning friend or relative, don’t force the issue. You’re showing that you trust your child to set healthy boundaries.
  3. GET INVOLVED – Know your child’s whereabouts and who he/she is with at all times. Ask them to check in with you should plans change. Despite how it looks to other people or what they may think of you, check in with other adults supervising or caring for your child in your absence and make your wishes known.
  4. PRACTICE & REHEARSE – Practice and rehearse safety skills with your child so that these are an automatic reflex for him. This might mean role-playing with your child how to handle a situation that feels unsafe. Encourage your child to trust that little voice inside if something doesn’t feel right and to use quick/smart thinking.
  5. PROMOTE THE POWER OF THE GROUP – Teach your child that there is power in numbers, always encouraging them to stick together with friends and avoid going anywhere alone. For example, help your child devise a buddy system for walking to and from school.
Attention and supervision are your right and obligation as a parent; there is no substitute for hands-on parenting. By teaching your child to be strong, smart and safe, you are protecting them and more importantly, you are empowering them to make the best decisions for their own personal safety.